09 – The Capacity Building Principle

The IDEMS Principle
The IDEMS Principle
09 – The Capacity Building Principle


David and Lucie discuss the principle Capacity Building: “This principle defines the heart of company implementation. It manifests itself through the company mentorship programme as well as the implementation approach of specific projects.”

They emphasise its role in mentoring and training individuals at various stages of their careers and highlight how capacity building is integral to IDEMS activities, focusing on developing skills and providing opportunities with the goal of enhancing local capabilities and fostering long-term growth and development.

[00:00:00] Lucie: Hi, and welcome to the IDEMS Principle. I’m Lucie Hazelgrove Planel, a Social Impact Scientist, and I’m here with David Stern, a founding director of IDEMS. Hi, David.

[00:00:16] David: Hi Lucie, I always look forward to the principle discussions. So what are we discussing today?

[00:00:21] Lucie: So we’ve been doing a lot of work with our interns, they’re now apprentices, in the work we do in West Africa. And so I thought it’d be really helpful for me at least to know more about the principle Capacity Building.

So capacity building, I think fits under Scalable Impact, which is also sounds really confusing. But if I just start off with the definition that we have of Capacity Building: “this principle defines the heart of company implementation. It manifests itself through the company mentorship program, as well as the implementation approach of specific projects.”

And these specific projects is what I was just talking about in West Africa.

[00:01:00] David: Yes, that’s right. And I think you came and you joined IDEMS under our fellowship programme, Impact Activation Postdoctoral Fellowships. So that’s also part of this approach, and it takes different forms at different levels. But it’s always about how we do everything, we’re trying to push and develop capacity in all sorts of different ways. This is central to how we work, as I think you have felt that we took you in as an anthropologist, and the first task we gave you was on databases.

[00:01:37] Lucie: Yes. [Laughs].

[00:01:38] David: This was about broadening out and explaining how the different components fit together. With our internship program in the West African context, we’ve done this initially in Burkina, then in Niger, and we’re about to have another internship program based in Mali. And the idea there is that we achieve multiple things through that program with the interns. We have an aim to identify and recruit somebody who’s going to be part of the team more long term, going in as you mentioned beyond the internship into the sort of apprenticeship and maybe even the junior fellowship, really on a journey. And that’s really thought of as a way of getting the skills which we know are really in demand in that region but are lacking, more available.

And part of the aim with the internship program is to actually do this with more people than we intend to recruit, so that people can take some of the skills and then go out and do other things.

[00:02:48] Lucie: Which is slightly different to the postdoctoral fellowship program, I think.

[00:02:55] David: No, even that, the intention with the postdoctoral fellow is to recruit people like yourself who then become embedded in IDEMS, but also to offer this to people who would, benefit from the program and then move on into other things.

So Herine is an example of the latter, the chances of her embedding long term in IDEMS were next to zero, but the fellowship was able to help her at that point to move on into her next stage. And that’s the balance that we’re always trying to do. We’re not just trying to use these capacity building opportunities to absorb people, although that is an important component. We’re also using it to build people’s capacity as they move on into other things. So that’s always really the aim.

[00:03:41] Lucie: Certainly in terms of the postdoctoral fellowship, I feel like you’re trying to answer that need that a lot of people coming out of university, they say that they can’t really apply for a job because it says you need however many years of experience, but they can’t get that experience because they can’t get the job first!

[00:03:58] David: Yes there is this sort of element, as you say, which sort of comes in and so there’s a way in which these fellowships help people to bridge that gap. But the fellowships, the postdoctoral fellowships, they’re also a way of getting people, and this is where the impact activation comes in, of getting people who are on that borderline of deciding, do I want to continue in academia or am I looking to move out and to work in other areas, particularly related to impact, to social impact? And actually that seems to be something where there are opportunities around this.

You made that transition in a different way before, in the sense that you moved from academia out really into development, and then you came back almost a bit halfway with us. Back to that sort of borderline.

[00:04:44] Lucie: Which has been a pleasure, yeah.

[00:04:46] David: But I think that jump fully into the development sphere, which as an anthropologist is more natural than most mathematical scientists.

[00:04:53] Lucie: Yes, that’s… I’ll admit, yep.

[00:04:58] David: There’s more common for anthropologists to make that sort of transition into the sort of social development sphere. But I think still across disciplines, it’s a difficult position, where actually that boundary between academia, social impact in different ways is one which we feel anyway, more should be done to help people at that crossroads.

[00:05:20] Lucie: Yeah, it’s a difficult one. I went into my PhD not thinking that I was going into academia, to me it was just more study. And then leaving that, I felt like I was turning my back on academia when I, when it wasn’t a choice I had made to go into academia, it was really strange.

[00:05:34] David: Yes, and I think that’s absolutely right, that in some sense we really value this sort of, the fellowship and the capacity building on that fellowship to enable people to make an informed choice on this, so not to necessarily, as you say, just find themselves on the path.

[00:05:51] Lucie: Exactly. And I should mention here that, so you didn’t only task me on databases, there were lots of other things that I did in the fellowship. It was trying different things and getting to know the company, which was great.

[00:06:02] David: And some of it was related to your skill set! Not all, but that’s also part of what we’re trying to do with the fellowship is to stretch people. Within academia, people tend to become very narrow. And so part of the capacity building… There was a report on this many years ago about UK PhDs being too narrow and part of what we’re envisaging with these fellowships at that level is it giving that breadth and giving people that exposure and that experience, which shows them how skills they might not have appreciated that they’d gained through the doctoral process and through the academic processes are relevant beyond, and even within academia that they actually can have value beyond their narrow discipline.

And this is something which academic institutions, I’ve mentioned in other podcasts, in the Transdisciplinary podcast, which is also another one of our principles, the fact that academics aren’t, no, academics are quite good at this. Academic institutions are not good at valuing people who are transdisciplinary or who cut across, whereas the fellowship is really designed to enable that and to give people exposure to working across disciplines.

[00:07:18] Lucie: I imagine that’s really especially the case with more mathematical science type studies.

[00:07:22] David: I thought that was true, quite a long time ago, but over the last few years I’ve recognised that specialisation and the narrowness that comes with it is a characteristic of academic institutions. This is very true in the mathematical sciences, where actually often people are a long way removed from impact, whereas in many other disciplines people are closer to impact, but they’re still very narrow in the academic world.

And it’s interesting that many academics value the transdisciplinary nature, they value working across boundaries, but the academic institutions enforce them to live within a narrow discipline and allow them to then go beyond that discipline. It’s an interesting mix. But what we’re wanting to talk about really is the capacity building part of this.

But part of that capacity building at the fellowship level is about enabling people to have the freedom to be transdisciplinary, which is another one of our principles, as we mentioned, but the bigger part of the capacity building is that it really is happening, we hope, at all levels.

A lot of the lower level capacity building, although we have had internships in the UK at lower levels, a lot of our internships are in low resource environments. And a lot of these are very carefully designed with partners to fit in to the low resource environments. So they are not necessarily financially very generous.

This is a deliberate choice that we don’t want to, and we’ve seen how a generous fellowship can actually really be detrimental to a, the progress and the capacity building of students in their environment. I’ve had a lot of experience with the really, what I see as one of the best initiatives across Africa for the mathematical scientists, AIMS, the African Institute of Mathematical Sciences, and they’ve got a program which is designed to be continental. And it works very well in places like South Africa, where actually it’s pitched at that level, but in lower resource environments, it ends up being very generous.

And what I’ve seen that do on occasions is that it means that people then become unemployable locally because their expectations are too high, it means that they’re now alienated from their local institutions, from the opportunities in their environment because they’ve had this amazing opportunity, but instead of it bridging them into their local institutions, it’s essentially removed them.

And many of them, therefore, end up not finding a place locally and going to South Africa, to other higher resource environments where their experience has prepared them for that more. And so actually to get people, and this is one of the really hard things, to do capacity building well in local environments, it needs to be embedded in the local systems in ways which are at times uncomfortable. Sort of the level at which we are paying our interns in the West African context is uncomfortably low in many ways.

[00:10:45] Lucie: Compared to what someone in the UK would get, for example.

[00:10:48] David: Or even what somebody in other African countries would get. That particular environment, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali. But it’s already much more generous than people would be getting if they were getting opportunities in that environment. And so therefore it’s already creating expectations and so on. So it’s it’s that balance, which is, which is very difficult to get it right, to be generous enough to enable them to work in their environment, but to be also aligned so that if they wanted to go into the university, the local universities afterwards, that they are aligned with that.

And so that’s where we try and pitch it with local institutions. And it’s a challenge. It’s easier in many ways in countries like Kenya, where we have a local partner, INNODEMS, where we, where they take responsibility for that. They, as an organisation, are set up in the local environment and they are aware of, how can I put it, the nature of what they’re offering. Kenya is a complicated country for other reasons. We could go into that at some point, but as a local institution, they take responsibility.

And so we would tend to, in that context, do internships through the local partner rather than ourselves, rather than offer them directly, and that’s a much better setup for us. That means that responsibility for pitching it, for getting these sorts of things right, is really their responsibility rather than ours.

This comes back to one of our other principles you mentioned, Collaborative by Nature. You in the beginning, question are we talking about capacity building or collaboration, because even in the West African context, they’re all interlinked, and, our partner in Ghana, GHAIDEMS, is involved in the West African component, even though Francis, who leads that, does not speak French, which makes it all very interesting. But this is an element which is challenging and yet very rewarding.

The involvement of GHAIDEMS and the thinking of GHAIDEMS within this is something which is interesting. And of course in the long term it is absolutely possible that what GHAIDEMS becomes is a role model for what these interns, these fellows, junior fellows and so on, maybe create in the future, if that is what is needed in their environments, trying to give them the skills to be able to think about how that might be a route for the capacity building.

The other route, of course, is to further studies for some of them. Issouf, who is one of our more long standing…

[00:13:32] Lucie: Become a junior fellow, yeah.

[00:13:33] David: Now become a junior fellow. The expectation is within two years he should move into a different position and this could be setting something up for himself and then we collaborate with him having more independent responsibility. Or this could be further studies and I could actually really appreciate and see how within a couple of years he’d be ready to do something really imaginative and really quite interesting, building from what he’s learned through this process.

[00:14:05] Lucie: But that’s, just to come off that point, because I think several, both in INNODEMS and in IDEMS, I think several staff members have gone back to the studies to do more studies basically. I think, relative proportion of staff members doing that is, I think, quite high, which shows how valued learnings are from education, within these companies.

[00:14:27] David: And I think more than that it’s about, this is part of what we’re trying to do. We’ve recognised, and this is our experience on the ground, that in many ways these education opportunities, part of being able to really get the most out of them, unlike in, I’d argue, quite often in the UK, certainly for the mathematical sciences, going straight through your studies is quite natural, and often getting scholarships to do so.

Whereas in a lot of these environments, those scholarships are extremely hard to come by. They’re very competitive. And not only that, but the education doesn’t actually prepare you well enough sometimes for the next step.

This process of capacity building predates setting up IDEMS. IDEMS as an organisation has come out of a desire to be able to support this capacity building process much more, but I’ve been doing it in this context for 15 years. I started in a Kenyan university trying to build people’s capacity within the academic systems and there were all sorts of challenges that came with that.

And then we, with some of my former students set up a Kenyan NGO, which tried to support this process. And that has been supporting this process for over 10 years. And some colleagues of ours set up a UK charity, again, the heart of it was the capacity building process. And then, more recently when we founded IDEMS, a big motivation was to support and to enable this long term capacity building process. Because the thing that we recognised is that it takes time.

Good capacity building is not something that you do in a short period of time. You can make a real impact on someone’s life in a week. I didn’t believe that at the beginning, but we’ve seen it time and time again. But really good long term capacity building takes years.

There’s people we’ve been working with for 10 years where there is continuous capacity building needed and this is lifelong learning. And so actually while short term capacity building efforts are valuable and they should be included, reaching more people, actually for individuals to take them through and enable them to reach their potential, you’ve got to think of that as a long term investment and process to enable people to go through these different cycles.

And if you take across these different institutions, going from people who had opportunities as an undergraduate or even pre undergraduate, as a sort of high school student, going through their undergraduate, then maybe a between undergraduate and a master’s program, maybe after the master’s program, before a PhD program.

Now we’ve had people go through multiple of these steps coming back to us after their education, because compared to the other opportunities, they knew they’d get more learning coming back, but then they want to carry on.

A fantastic example of somebody who did an internship with us after undergraduate, before their master’s. They were one of the top students at a university. And they then went off and did their master’s program. After their master’s program, they came back to us for another internship and then through that we then linked them to another internship opportunity with colleagues that we work with, which is more prestigious, an international research organisation.

And I just heard last week that they’ve now got a PhD position. So they’re going from that into a PhD position in the Netherlands. And so they’ve got a joint PhD position across the Netherlands and South Africa.

[00:17:59] Lucie: How exciting.

[00:18:00] David: And this is someone who just taking you through that journey: they were Kenyan, they did their undergraduate in Kenya, they did their master’s in Senegal, they came back to Kenya.

[00:18:10] Lucie: They’re already international, like within the continent, yeah.

[00:18:13] David: Absolutely. And then they went to Mali for their other internship program, and now they’re going to the Netherlands and South Africa for their PhD.

And it’s really enabling them over this sort of almost ten year period now, to really grow as an individual. Now, my slight disappointment is that their PhD is actually very abstract and they were doing some really impactful work before. Maybe when they finish their PhD, they’ll come and do an impact activation fellowship with us to come back to the back towards the impact work where they were so wonderful.

This is also part of allowing people to choose their own path. Maybe they won’t, maybe they’ll go off into academia and be more narrowly focused, but have the impact in their own way, we don’t know. But taking people, enabling them to go through that journey, this is just one example which I happened to have heard the last piece of that story last week, so it was on my mind.

But that capacity building journey, recognising that for many people this is a 10, 15 year journey to get to the starting gate of then where you started with us, the Impact Activation Fellowship. If we want to have people who are coming with the sort of skills that you came in with and many of the International Impact Activation Fellows have come in with, we need to help people on that journey from an early point to grow and to go through these different stages.

[00:19:33] Lucie: So I can see the sort of the benefits for the person who is learning more, having gone through the system being part of the system myself. And I can see the rewards, you’ve just mentioned some sort of potential rewards that you might have someone coming back to IDEMS or INNODEMS who’s gained more skills.

But you’ve also mentioned some challenges, I think, in the sense of that it takes time, which also means it takes a lot of resources. Are there any examples where you’ve found that sort of capacity building, it’s not worth it?

[00:19:59] David: Yes. If we were a pure for profit organisation, I don’t know if we could justify this. If we were trying to maximise profit, the simple truth is that we’re, in many ways, being inefficient in our capacity building. We’ve got a very long term view to it, we’ve got a relatively high exodus rate at the sort of lower levels, where people go off and do other exciting, interesting things, which, from a social impact perspective, is perfect.

You know, this case I just mentioned where he went off to Mali, that’s a success for us because he was working on incredibly impactful work with a partner who we value in different ways. And so that was a success for us in terms of impact, but it’s not a success in terms of actually pure finances for the business. We’ve lost that investment.

[00:20:53] Lucie: There’s an interesting what you’ve just said there in terms of impact. Do you look at impact very narrowly in terms of the company? Or do you look at it in terms of the company producing impact?

[00:21:03] David: Absolutely. And this is an important role. And this is where as a social enterprise, we can say actually, yes, it’s hard as an enterprise to lose that talent, but as a social enterprise, if we keep all that talent internally, then our impact on the world is less. By allowing people to spread their wings and be impactful elsewhere, we’re actually creating value, and we’re potentially, also in the long run, if we look very much further down the line, these are people that we try and keep in touch with.

So in the future, they value what they’ve gone through with IDEMS, and maybe we become collaborators in the future. This is Collaborative by Nature, we’re not doing this for ourselves. We’re doing this because we want to build those collaboration networks. We want people out there to have had positive experiences and had their, you know, in some sense, owe their career and where they are now to the experiences that we’ve been able to provide, the capacity building we’ve been able to provide.

And we don’t believe that is going to be best served by just having people internal. But we do believe central to that is this need to be, it’s not one of our principles, but it’s part of how our business model is, we have to be fundamentally profitable. And so at this point in time, the capacity building, as an approach, is really challenging because a lot of this is around investment, it’s investment in people and trying to do that in a way which is fundamentally profitable.

It doesn’t need to be maximizing profit, but the work that they have to be doing at any given point in time has to be, by and large, cost recovery at least, within the organisation. And this is actually also a positive element, I feel, of our capacity building. That people are exposed to that, even relatively early on is a thinking which I think helps them in their career going forward.

[00:23:04] Lucie: You mean being aware of the sort of financial implications of things?

[00:23:08] David: Exactly, being aware that if you’re taking this money out of the organisation, who is putting the money in which enables you to take it out? And why are they putting it in? What is it about your work which is enabling you to be financially stable? And what is it about your work that is not really contributing to the financial stability of the organisation?

And so even in our capacity building, we’re very open, and you’ve been in ‘cause with this with the group in West Africa, where we’re saying look, we’ve got these finances in for this two year period, we expect to be able to get finances in after that, and that’s how we’ve written your work into this. But you need to now deliver on this work in interesting ways to make sure that next opportunity comes and so on.

And we’re not saying that we won’t keep them on if we don’t get that next opportunity, but they are aware of where their salary is coming from, their stipend is coming from. We’ve got some people who are salaried within organisations, others who are receiving, if you want, an internship stipend and they’re self employed, so to speak.

These are different, how can I put it, models, but you yourself were very aware of where the work you were doing right from day one was paid, where it was not paid, what the differences between these were, the opportunities were, and that’s, that transparency on that is part of the impact activation part of the postdoctoral fellowship, it’s part of the capacity building we embed in everything we do. Because it’s something which when I look at academia, academia tends to hide that and it tends to, it glosses over that in ways where actually, you know, when I was growing up and my father was an academic and seeing how they worked, that was absolutely right.

[00:24:59] David: They were in a privileged world where you could gloss over those finances. In academic circles right now, there is an expectation, there’s no public funding, there’s an expectation of bringing the money in that covers your salary and your team salary. If you want to build a group, you need to be thinking about where that money is coming from and so on.

This is central to how current academic institutions are forced to work. Now, would I prefer to live in my father’s era where academia is more valued by society and supported by society in ways which allow it to have more independence? Yes. That is something which I can irrevocably say, I believe this is better for society. But that’s not the world we live in right now.

[00:25:45] Lucie: Was it not removed, more removed from society ?

[00:25:48] David: Absolutely. And it was, and you didn’t necessarily have the efforts to make academic progress towards direct impact. And that had its own problems. It was more of an ivory tower institution, but I would argue that those problems are solvable in other ways.

So there are better ways to get academia more interested and invested in impact than just chasing the money. Because part of the problem with it just being around chasing the money is that actually then it becomes the highest bidder. So it’s not where the most value to society is that gets prioritized if you are looking for impact.

And the Research Excellence Framework does now really include and value impact. How it measures it is a whole different matter. So you can include that in your research excellence and the impact component, and that would then be valued within the structures, but this is the UK in particular I’m talking about now, but the same is happening elsewhere.

So you can include that in your academic structures, but I would argue that the commercialization of the process is one which is, is skewing the nature of research in ways which are not necessarily to society’s benefit. It is what it is. I’m not, at this point, aiming to change that about our society. I don’t see how we could if we wanted to. But I do think that there, there are elements of the academia that I observed as a child growing up, which I think, wow, what a privilege they had. And what a wonderful system to be nurtured and built in, that created.

And the minds that it created are really quite impressive. I must confess that I do enjoy working with people who have gone through that generation. They think differently because of the environment that supported them through their career. And there’s elements of that which I think have come from the nature of how they were, how their capacity was built.

[00:27:55] Lucie: That’s really interesting.

[00:27:56] David: And that’s part of the capacity building we’re trying to create in some sense.

[00:28:01] Lucie: There’s one thing we haven’t mentioned about capacity building which is the company mentorship program. So how does that fit into capacity building?

[00:28:09] David: You can say more about that than I can in a sense, it isn’t your baby, we were very fortunate to have a colleague who actually.

[00:28:16] Lucie: Margarita Phillips.

[00:28:17] David: Yeah, Margarita Phillips, who was only with us for a short period of time in a small way. And yet this was something she felt, I mentioned to her it’s something I would really like, I value mentorship, I believe in mentorship, and she ran with it. And then when you joined, she found a kindred spirit there and handed it over to you in a sense. And you’ve really taken it on, so why don’t you say a little bit about the mentorship program, and then I’ll say why I feel this is so important.

[00:28:41] Lucie: Okay so we’re now in the third round of the scheme. It’s a six monthly scheme where we pair people up between three now companies, so IDEMS in Europe, INNODEMS in Kenya, and GHAIDEMS in Ghana, but I think spread out a bit, let’s say. And we pair people up for conversations about what they want to talk about, what the mentees feel that they would like to discuss or have support on.

Sometimes it’s just about finding out what someone else does in the company, from what I’ve heard, sometimes it’s much more focused on a particular skill or aspect of their work life that they would like to improve on, like in terms of improving their ways of working or something.

There’s a lot of challenges. But I sometimes wonder how much we actually manage to achieve within the scheme.

[00:29:30] David: As you’ve pointed out, it’s very low touch in many ways. It’s not something which is taking up a huge amount of anyone’s time.

[00:29:37] Lucie: Yes, so they, in the six month period, they’ll only meet about, sort of five times perhaps. They may meet more if it goes really well, if they want to continue those conversations.

[00:29:45] David: And one of the things you haven’t mentioned is that, Margherita really brought this out of the sort of feminist literature on how to build capacity of…

[00:29:54] Lucie: Which in itself has caused some questions, the fact that it’s labelled as feminist.

[00:29:59] David: Yes but I think it’s been very valuable in many different ways, and to be coming from that perspective was a desire from the start that we actually recognised that within companies in general, there is a danger and there’s a risk that the competitive versus collaborative, that competitive gets overvalued compared to the collaborative.

And the mentorship process, and this is one of the reasons that, there’s also gender biases in terms of actually many women have been found to thrive more in collaborative environments rather than competitive environments and vice versa. And so the nature of a company trying to balance and as trying to be Collaborative by Nature, this is, I have to confess, I’m quite good at being competitive if I have to.

I’ve always enjoyed that and I recognise that is a strength for the company that I can bring, but it is also potentially a weakness that I have in terms of building the company that I want to be collaborative. And so it’s something where very deliberately I recognised this was not something I should lead and this is part of the capacity building approach that I believe in very strongly, is about valuing the strengths that different people have, and enabling them to excel where they have strength. But also challenging people to grow new areas of expertise and go out of their comfort zone.

And I see the, the mentorship program, as you say, it’s very low touch and this was deliberate because, as I put to Margherita at the beginning, we can’t afford to invest hugely in this, but we believe in it and we want to support it and to make it happen and support it as much as we can.

And so it’s something which is evolving and I think you’ve added your own mark to it in really positive ways. I guess the thing which I believe where I have no doubt this has had value and one of the sort of challenges I believe of the program, mentorship within IDEMS itself, I think there’s been a number of those relationships which have been built amongst IDEMS staff that would not have been easily built otherwise, where that has had ongoing perpetual value.

So I think that within IDEMS mentorship has been to me very easily a success and maybe the most successful component. The two other components of where there has been mentorship from IDEMS staff to INNODEMS and GHAIDEMS, I think there are elements of that which have been successful but it has been much more delicate and difficult. And I think that the South mentorship across INNODEMS and GHAIDEMS, again that has had its own challenges as well.

Now we believe in supporting those processes and we want to work at that. But I think when you were looking at the challenges of the process, it has become quite dominated because those are big teams now growing in other ways where the mentorship is more needed. And that’s a demand on our time, it’s something we want to put time into these partners, as part of our Collaborative by Nature, again this other principle, which we’ll discuss.

But it’s, it’s been challenging, and I think that’s been a big part of the challenge because that has required or it does require a different type of experience. And arguably, IDEMS isn’t yet big enough to be able to run that as I would like it to be run.

[00:33:47] Lucie: Exactly, we keep on having difficulty of not having enough mentors.

[00:33:51] David: Yes. And what even though there’s been some beautiful inverse mentorship, I still remember, I think it was you and Stephen who were paired up where Stephen wanted a mentor who actually understood things from a very different perspective, despite the fact that he’s maybe one of our most senior members.

[00:34:06] Lucie: Exactly.

[00:34:10] David: Yes, and it worked extremely well. And I discussed this with him afterwards and he really appreciated the mentorship you provided. So this is a wonderful example of these inverted mentorship schemes in different ways and that’s embedded in nice ways and the way you’ve thought of that and brought that to realization and taken responsibility for it by taking on a lot of the challenges yourself has been part of what has made that work.

But the capacity building within that is the fact that capacity building is needed at all levels.

[00:34:42] Lucie: It is.

[00:34:42] David: I myself looked out for mentorship, particularly from outside, but also from within. And, it’s something which is really central to how we think we need to work. And it’s hard.

[00:34:55] Lucie: I think it does come back down to that, what you just said in terms of the Collaborative by Nature, being aware that actually, everyone has something to offer in a way, and trying to identify what they have to offer perhaps, but also what one needs.

[00:35:08] David: Yes, absolutely. And recognising that this has a cost, it takes time. Anything which has real value tends to take time and have a cost therefore associated. I’m not just talking about a financial cost, but, you get emotionally invested, you get, you’re being tied to something which, then becomes part of who you are.

And there’s a limited number of those ties, there’s this research about how many social connections can individuals have. And you’re using one of those valuable connections in a very positive way. But there is a sort of limit to what an individual could have. And so those human costs are important.

And we don’t have the answers here at all. I don’t think that’s really important, but what I do think is so important about this principle, Capacity Building, within IDEMS as a company is that almost every contract we get, we include an element of capacity building, of our partners, internally. It’s always something we would tend to write in.

And it’s not something which is getting written in by accident, it’s not an afterthought. It is central to what we believe in and how we work. And I think the way I’d like to phrase this is, it’s recognised as maybe being sub optimal in terms of the immediate value, but it far exceeds in terms of potential value.

I’m getting onto a sort of, you’re part of our monitoring and evaluation as an organisation. This is the value creation stories and actually recognizing the different types of value which are created for something. And this is where I see capacity building is where we sacrifice a small amount of immediate value for a large potential value. And I think as an organisation, that’s a good investment.

The point is that potential value may not repay financially, but it may repay in terms of social impact in terms of these other things. And that’s where there is no real trade off here. As a social enterprise, as long as we’re profitable, we can prioritise the potential value over the immediate in a way which I think if we were forced to maximise profits over short periods of time, our pressures would be different in a way that we wouldn’t be able to do this.

[00:37:33] David: And capacity building in the long run, taken as a long term perspective, I have no doubt that this will pay off in all sorts of positive ways. It’s a principle which is embedded in IDEMS. It is, in some sense, non negotiable. This is part of how and why IDEMS was set up, was our belief that if we set up an organisation, it could enable the capacity building that we were already trying to do to become sustainable, to become more impactful. And so this is a central tenet, if you want of IDEMS and the IDEMS principles.

[00:38:13] Lucie: Thank you for your time, David. It’s been fascinating.

[00:38:17] David: Thank you. This has been a really interesting discussion. I’ve enjoyed it.